Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or
natural?people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What
makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and
crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about
ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?
In A Paradise Built in Hell,
award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking
at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through
the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico
City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She
examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed
states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost
of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration
during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed
author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in
broad cultural histories.